Published On: June 3, 2024

Easterseals Crossroads has entered the gaming community with focus on creating inclusive, accessible spaces for an underserved population – gamers with disabilities. Together with other Easterseals affiliates, we are now ES Gaming and we are setting a new standard for equity, inclusion and access for all gamers – with and without disabilities.

Disability awareness and accessibility in gaming has become a priority for companies and developers, but barriers still exist for gamers with disabilities. Progress has been made in the industry toward inclusion, but knowledge and understanding of accessibility continues to lag. It is our goal to bridge that gap through education, technology, engaging social content and community events aimed at bringing gamers together for a collective cause.

Easterseals Crossroads is especially positioned to bridge the accessibility gap with the expertise of its Assistive Technology Center. We provide technology solutions for individuals with disabilities in all aspects of daily life including work, recreation, school, community events and more.

“With our lending library and device demos available through the Assistive Technology Center, we are removing the barriers that have kept gamers with disabilities from fully joining gaming activities. By providing access to special gaming tools and spreading awareness, we are not only making gaming better, but we are also making sure that everyone – regardless of ability – feels welcome and equal,” said Brian Norton, Vice President, Adult Services, Easterseals Crossroads.

In our community, ES Gaming Indy exists to make gaming adaptable for people with disabilities by providing inclusive in-person and online environments.

“People with disabilities (visible or not) have traditionally been excluded from so many environments largely due to unwritten, unspoken social barriers. Gaming – whether online or in person – tends to create a level playing field in which everyone is accepted,” said David Dreith, President/CEO, Easterseals Crossroads.

Impact of Gaming

David has learned firsthand about the power of gaming in the lives of people with disabilities. His daughter Abby is a young adult with autism. Growing up, Abby found the process of building relationships with others to be difficult.

“In my long tenure of gaming, I’ve met so many wonderful people I’ve found through gaming and common interests. From my own standpoint as someone with autism, gaming has been a truly positive aspect of my day-to-day life in helping me find new interests and friends as well as optimizing my cognitive skills and intelligence,” said Abby Dreith.

Gaming offers people of all abilities and ages the opportunity to come together without the social labels of age, race, disability, gender or sexuality. Because gaming can occur online within groups there are more opportunities to develop meaningful and lasting relationships with others. And through these connections, diversity can add a unique perspective to gaming.

The benefits of gaming for people with disabilities are immense and multifaceted. Gaming serves as more than just entertainment; it fosters social connections, improves cognitive abilities and enhances motor skills. For individuals with mobility impairments, gaming provides an avenue for expression, breaking down physical barriers and enabling them to immerse themselves in rich virtual worlds. Moreover, gaming platforms offer a safe and inclusive environment where individuals can explore their capabilities, build confidence and develop vital problem-solving skills.

two gamers looking at a screen two gamers looking at a phone four board games stacked

Connections through Gaming

Families who game – either through electronic or board games – have found that fun competition brings out the best in each other. The strategic thinking needed in gaming can encourage problem solving and communication, as well as foster support and group dynamics.

“As a parent who games with my adult children Abby and Val, I have learned a lot about how they think. They have demonstrated talents beyond the actual skills for gaming, and I have had the wonderful opportunity to witness this. Recently at our first team meeting at Easterseals Crossroads, I observed Abby adapt a controller for the use of another gamer with a physical disability. It reminded me once again how incredible that she is with problem solving, and that she loves using those skills to help others,” said David.

Future of ES Gaming Indy

For people with disabilities—a community vulnerable to social isolation—gaming is a powerful source of connection and friendship. Our future agency plan will include a dedicated, inclusive, fully accessible gaming center. This will allow us to expand our innovative ES Gaming Indy initiative and accelerate our growth as a barrier-breaking hub for gaming, assistive technology and equitable design.

Thanks to a generous donation by Easterseals Crossroads’ Board Member Phil Belt and his wife Kelly, we have created a temporary gaming lounge where ES Gaming Indy resides, and we’re currently imagining the studio as we look to the future. Gaming is one of the many avenues people with disabilities can use to close the gap between accessibility and inclusion.

“There is so much more work that needs to be done for the future of gaming. For people with physical disabilities, it’s an uphill battle for video game accessibility. Certain aspects of game story and game play require controls that are not accommodating to players with physical disabilities, and there is a general lack of settings regarding controls and visual/audial sensory adjustments. Providing solutions for these issues, as well as incorporating proper disability representation in gaming, will be key to dismantling ableism in one of the most popular forms of media on the planet,” said Abby.

Join ES Gaming Indy

Join ES Gaming Indy today and be part of the fun in creating our team! Your involvement will provide you with chances to meet with others in person and online; we have some great summer activities planned, as well.

Joining is simple; scan the code and fill out the brief form. You must be 18+ years of age to join. Be part of the movement to level the playing field in gaming and create a community that is welcoming to gamers of all abilities!

Connect with us and learn more about ES Gaming!